Archive for September, 2009

The Primary School Debate – BBC Radio 4 tonight at 8.p.m.

From conversations I’ve had with fellow parents on the school run (or in our case the school ‘bike’) – I’ve realised how many of us want to understand more about how and why current policies in primary schools came about.

The discussion on BBC Radio 4 tonight may clarify the picture. It is the last in the series of programmes called ‘From Abacus to Circle Time’ which looks at the history of primary schools since the first world war. I’ll be listening to it, and looking out for references to the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework. Readers, let me know your views via the comments box.

As usual, if you miss the programme you can catch up with it for seven days in the archive.


Childminding and Early Years Politics on Woman’s Hour Today

Two police officers have been told it would be illegal for them to look after each other’s children. Don’t miss Woman’s Hour today on Radio 4 at 10 a.m.

Dr. Richard House, early years specialist and supporter of ‘Open Eye’ –  (a source of strength for me as a parent and writer) explains why it is time to roll back government bureaucracy in early years frameworks. See this link.

Don’t worry if you miss the programme this morning – you can listen to it later today in the archive version.

Leading Headmaster condemns EYFS curriculum

From yesterday’s Daily Telegraph – John Tranmer – chairman of the Independent Association of Prep Schools said it was ‘fundamentally wrong’ that Labour ‘was attempting to dictate how children are taught in the fee-paying sector’.

According to the Daily Telegraph ‘in a savage attack he rounded on the Government’s new ‘nappy curriculum’ – a set of compulsory targets for under-fives that must be met by every state and private nursery, pre-school and playgroup…’

Tranmer said to the Telegraph : ‘We have the experience, the knowledge and the understanding to determine an appropriate curriculum for our pupils and it was a sorry day indeed when we lost that professional freedom…for that reason I shall use whatever influence and opportunity I have during this year to campaign to reverse the imposition of the EYFS”.

To see the article in full click here:

Keeping Children Safe on the Internet

Parents are not usually pleased to see a police car on the school run. But today a smiling copper was handing out leaflets to publicise a new website which helps keep children safe online. It’s called ‘Think you Know’ and is backed by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

It’s a mistaken belief that critics of the Early Years Foundation Stage are not concerned about welfare and safety. Campaigners (and campaigning journalists) object to the sixty-nine learning and development requirements but we support the welfare and health and safety elements of the programme.

If you’re a parent, a trainer or a teacher, the new CEOP web site has something to offer you and some great resources aimed at different age groups. Here’s the link.

Sometimes it takes a good while to raise awareness. Last year I raised some issues around internet security, photographs and facebook with nursery staff and Ofsted itself. At the time I felt I was getting on people’s nerves, but I’m glad I did that now as there’s been a concrete and positive outcome to the story. Let’s hope we have similar successes with educating our local authorities and our government about the need to downgrade the Learning and Development requirements to recommendations only.

I’m working almost exclusively on the Internet, right now so I’m confronted with issues of internet security on a regular basis.  For more discussion on this, see the article I wrote a few months ago: Child Safety and the Internet.

Child Care Today. Dr. Penelope Leach ‘getting it right for everyone’.

Life as a mum is nothing but eventful. Woke up to Babes insisting she wanted to eat carrots for breakfast. I’d already cooked porridge which she usually loves and it’s always better she eats it straight away as (like me) she really needs her slow-burning carbs. A major meltdown ensued. We usually have at least one a day, which is pretty good going for a four year old, I feel. This one was longer than most and lasted at least half an hour. Thank goodness we’re not due at school this morning. It’s been a staggered start for the past three weeks, two hours a day, first mornings – then afternoons. An unsettling pattern for us as we like our routine.

Eventually I was able to bring out the porridge. And the carrots. Things had just quietened down and were looking a lot better when the phone rang. More good news. It was the editor of the international Quaker journal ‘The Friend’. Following the opinion piece and the news piece they published last week  they’re going to print a short and very bold initial statement from me about the parental exemption refusal. So, readers, look out for that in The Friend on Thursday. I’m really glad it’s going to see the light of print.

The postman arrived with the book I’d ordered. Dr. Penelope Leach (2009) : “Child Care Today”.  Other parents told me she’s been talking sense for a good while, but I’ve only recently discovered her. That’s partly because I did my Postgraduate Certificate in ‘Adult Education’ so until Babes came along, I suppose I hadn’t really engaged with Early Years issues that much. Up until fairly recently, that is.

“Child Care Today” – is about ‘getting it right for everyone’.  It sounds like jolly good sense and I’m really looking forward to dipping into it. Here’s a short quote from the book jacket:

“Leach sees “work-home balance” as being the major conundrum of the day. She delineates the challenge of fitting children’s unchanged needs into society’s changing demands and the dilemma of today’s parents needing to be in two places at once. She describes in detail the various ways Western countries address that challenge: care given by parents, extended family, and non family; care provided in the child’s home, in other homes, and in professional settings; childcare funded by paying parents or the government. Considering the issues from the various viewpoints of politicians, policy makers professionals, parents, and children themselves, the author discusses the impact of each kind of care on children of different ages”.

Sounds just up my street right now – especially since the book is extremely relevant to the U.S. and I have lots of American readers from my work on Helium. Don’t exactly know how I’m going to find time to read it, but that’s the issue, in a nutshell, isn’t it?

Reader responses to Early Years Exemption ‘Challenge’

And another one – this time from Arthur. Arthur – I’ve lifted your words out of the comments section as they really do hit certain nails on the head…thanks for the feedback. F.

Arthur says:

 “All well and good, except that you probably won’t be able to find another school within the state system that is prepared to accept an exempt child and is close enough for you.

When Tony Blair said his government’s priorities would be “Education, Education, Education!”, we all thought he meant more books, equipment and teachers and smaller class sizes. How wrong we were. Instead, we get a large army of civil servants producing reams of rules and regulations about how children should be taught and the things they should be able to do by a certain age and a small army of inspectors making sure that the schools and child care providers follow those rules.

I suppose we couldn’t really expect anything else from an over ambitious accountant and his probation officer side kick (who has now been replaced by a career politician with a reputation for not listening to objections).”

Reader responses to Early Years Exemption ‘Challenge’

As readers can imagine, it has been a tough day in some ways (received the letter which confirmed that our parental exemption request has been rejected see previous post) , so I was really pleased to receive this reader comment from Hazel. We really appreciate your comment Hazel, thank you very much for your thoughtful support.

Hazel’s comment:

I applaud your decision to challenge the EYFS . I just read your article in the Friend this morning. I have this week retired from childminding( I am 61 and parent of three grown-up children). I felt really bogged down in paperwork and it is a great relief not to have to face another Ofsted visit.
I think the idea of child initiated play is right and is what I learned about when I trained as a nursery nurse in the 1960’s but the detail is just mind boggling.
I notice you also have an interest in breastfeeding, I am a La Leche League leader in Cheshire.

I wish you all the best for this challenge you have undertaken